U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Thursday called the Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s email system an unprecedented outrage that is “closer and closer to an act of war.”
Speaking to reporters at his Tampa district office, the Florida Democrat made his most outspoken comments yet about the continuing-to-evolve story.
Last Friday, the issue reached a new level of attention, after The Washington Post reported that a secret assessment by the CIA concluded Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than undermining confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
“Not only is this an outrage,” Nelson said. “This is unprecedented. This is crossing the line, closer and closer to an act of war.”
Nelson added that hacking information to influence an election is damaging to the integrity of an election.
“I think there’s going to be serious ramifications of this, regardless of where you hear that different people in the intelligence community have differing opinions,” he said. “Listen: When there is a high consensus of high confidence, that’s the highest level of acceptance of intelligence. And that consensus is out of the CIA? I believe it.”
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor was also condemning the hacking into the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email server account on Thursday.
“The United States must hold Russia accountable for cyber attacks against our country, our electoral system and the private intellectual property of American businesses,” she said in a statement. “These Russian cyber attacks were not a move against any one party, they were a move against our nation and all Americans. The United States also should consider broader sanctions against the Russian government following a robust, bipartisan investigation to confirm the extent and identities of responsible individuals, including Vladimir Putin himself. “
Castor also lashed out at President-elect Trump’s laissez-faire attitude toward the Russians in this story.
“President-Elect Trump should reassess his knowledge and rhetoric toward Russia and be more circumspect in maintaining the dignity of the office upon which he is about to enter,” she said. “America must stand strong and not capitulate to Russia and President [Valdamir] Putin and their often malicious ends.”
At his news conference, Nelson was asked by this reporter if any of Trump’s selections to his Cabinet gave him pause. Nelson referred to Arizona Senator John McCain’s concerns, but not his own.
“You take John McCain — he’s got some serious problems so we want to see what through the examination of the testimony to what degree does his friendship and past business dealings with Russia and Putin how would that possibly affect him in representing the national security of this interests as Secretary of State, and I look forward to that inquiry.”
There are now at least 54 of the 232 Democratic presidential electors who are now calling on national intelligence director James Clapper to authorize a briefing ahead of the Electoral College meeting on Dec. 19 to choose the next president.
Only one Republican — Texas’ Chris Suprun — has joined their call.
Nelson said it wasn’t going to happen, and that it shouldn’t happen.
“The electors are not going to be granted access to the deepest secrets of this country,” he summarily declared Thursday. “They’re going to have to go on and do their constitutional duty, regardless of them being able to be briefed on intelligence matters. Just to be able to receive classified information, a person has to go thru an extreme vetting process to make sure that there’s nothing in their background that would then compromise that information in the future.
“That’s simply not going to happen between now and next Monday.”